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Volume 59 / Social Sciences

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: BRAZIL


SCOTT D. TOLLEFSON, Assistant Professor and Director of M.A. Program, Department of Political Science, Kansas State University


AT THE TURN OF THE MILLENNIUM, Brazil's international relations found a new maturity that reflected President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's desire to assert Brazil's foreign policy interests in a positive, nonthreatening manner. One goal of the administration was a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and although Brazil had not attained that goal by mid-2000, it continued to press for it in a quiet, yet forceful manner.

Brazil's maturity was evidenced in the pivotal role it played in forging a peaceful resolution of the border dispute between Peru and Ecuador. It was further manifested when Cardoso convened in Brasilia the first meeting of South American heads of state. In addition, Brazilian diplomats occupied leadership posts in numerous multilateral organizations, and Brazil became an active member of numerous nonproliferation regimes.

The literature on Brazil's international relations reflects its new-found maturity. By far the most common theme in the literature was Brazil's position in the international system. The title of Sardenberg's article, "O Brasil a caminho do século XXI" (item #bi 98012517#), captures that theme. Much of the analysis in this area was reflective or predictive.

Brazil's bilateral relations emerged as another prominent theme in the literature. The US has generally received the greatest attention from scholars (item #bi 00002053#), but Argentina may have eclipsed the US at the turn of the century. Portugal received greater scrutiny than usual due to the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Brazil in 1500 (item #bi 99000303#). An unorthodox, yet insightful contribution to this topic is the dialogue between the Portuguese and Brazilian heads of state (item #bi 00002049#). Other countries also received attention, including China, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, South Africa, and Venezuela. A related theme was that of Brazil's regional relations, such as those with Africa (item #bi 99000305#).

Regional integration, especially the role of Mercosul, the Common Market of the South, was a third major theme. While much of the focus is on economic topics, some recent literature also offers a broader perspective, including political, defense, labor, and technological issues. A common concern was the future of Mercosul in light of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, which was projected to be established in 2005 (item #bi 98012436#). European integration was a frequent point of reference (item #bi 00002045#).

Other major themes in the literature on Brazil's international relations included diplomatic history (item #bi 99000297#), defense relations (item #bi 00002052#), foreign economic relations, and geopolitics. The scholarship on geopolitics, much of it emanating from the Escola Superior de Guerra, seemed increasingly dated and out of touch with the changing times. An emerging theme was that of Brazil's involvement in global peacekeeping operations (item #bi 97007075#).

Brazilians, unsurprisingly, are by far the most prolific writers on the topic of their country's international relations. What is striking is the dearth of such literature coming from Europe, North America, and Spanish America. While analysts from these areas do publish, the gap between "Brazilian" and "non-Brazilian" literature seems to be growing. The most prolific authors in the realm of Brazil's international relations are Brazilian diplomats. At times their approach is rather traditional (diplomatic history) and formal, but they also produce some of the most sophisticated analyses. For example, Fonseca wrote an insightful set of essays in which he applied the English school of international relations theory to the issue of legitimacy (item #bi 00002058#). Paulo Roberto de Almeida focused on the role of political parties in the formulation of Brazil's foreign policy (item #bi 00002052#). The scholars tend to be concentrated in Brasília, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Campinas. Journalists, academics, and military officers round out the major contributors to the literature.

Brazil boasts a number of excellent journals that deal almost exclusively with that country's international relations. Among them are the Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional and Política Externa. These are complemented by many others, such as the Revista Brasileira de Comércio Exterior, Defesa Nacional, and the Revista da Escola Superior de Guerra.

The literature on Brazil's international relations is growing in terms of quantity of publications, and it is improving in terms of quality. However, much of the literature continues to suffer from a sense of ufanismo (excessive nationalistic pride). There is a need for balance and for a greater appreciation of Brazil's limits in its foreign relations. There is also a need for scholarship that is truly critical and steeped in new theories and methods of analysis.

Finally, what is needed in the study of Brazil's international relations is greater depth, and not breadth. Vigevani's publications serve as models for future analysis. In three of his works reviewed here, Vigevani examines the role of labor unions (item #bi 99001087#) and bureaucracies (item #bi 99002473#) within Mercosul, linking internal and external factors in the formulation of Brazil's foreign policy. In his study of Brazil's relations with the US, Vigevani focuses on information technology (item #bi 99000301#).


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